ESPN MLB Insider and draft expert Kiley McDaniel answered questions Thursday about the upcoming 2020 MLB Draft. McDaniel will be a signature part of ESPN’s upcoming presentation of the 2020 MLB Draft, which will include nearly 10 hours of live coverage on Wednesday, June 10, and Thursday, June 11. More details can be found on ESPN Press Room.
An audio replay of the call is available here.
KILEY MCDANIEL: I’d say the broad stuff going on right now is everyone is expecting Spencer Torkelson to go first overall to Detroit. And there’s a big question at number two with Baltimore, who are run by Mike Elias; used to run the Astros. Obviously, they went underslot at one and one to take Carlos Correa. And then spend the savings in other places. That’s sort of where the amount of certainty in the industry kind of cuts off. And my next and final mock draft will be on the morning of the draft.
So, between now and then I’ll be working the phones. I have one scheduled when we’re done here. And sort of like 30,000‑foot view would be teams are telling me that they have drastically reduced the amount of high school players that they’re willing to meet the price for.
So, in the case of even players that have multiyear history, were good over the summer, check all the boxes, if they didn’t see in the spring or they didn’t have higher level scouts see them in the spring, they’re just not going to pay them what they thought they were going to pay them if they could have seen them for maybe one more month.
There’s going to be a lot of college players getting pushed up and the high school players that are in demand that everyone feels comfortable with will go quickly in those first 30 to 50 picks. And I think it will be even more college‑heavy than it is normally.
Q: Just a couple questions about the Tigers and what you think they’re going to do. Could you make a case for Torkelson, Martin and even Lacy as well at that number one spot, can you make a case?
KILEY MCDANIEL: Yeah, I don’t think we published this yet, but I put sort of a top 100 rankings for the top three.
I find that’s, like, an easy way for the more casual fans to understand where these guys are. Currently I have Torkelson 19th, Martin 36th and Lacy 47th. So obviously from 19th to 47th on a top 100 is a little bit of a gap, enough you can notice the difference. And there’s probably an industry consensus from the top guy to the bottom guy.
But also, if you can save a million and a half, two million on a bonus, you could then make up that gap by saying, hey, the second guy we get is going to be in the top 100 a year from now and the other guy we’d get if we paid full freight maybe wouldn’t be.
I think it’s close enough that it can come down to money. And from Detroit’s perspective, I’ve written this a couple times, but they prefer ‑‑ and they said this even on the record ‑‑ definitely said it a lot privately and their actions sort of back it up ‑‑ is they prefer SEC performance, like specifically that, the best conference, and power bats and power arms.
So, Martin’s not a huge power bat. He might be down the road, but he’ll never be a huge power bat. Obviously Torkelson is a power bat, but he’s Pac‑12. And Lacy’s a power arm SEC. So, he fits the preferences a little bit better than the other two guys, even though he’s generally seen as the third‑best prospect amongst these guys; but, again, it’s very close.
And my sources told me that they see Torkelson as the best prospect, probably going to take Torkelson. But Lacy is their second-best prospect. They are also sort of considering it because they think they’re closer than most teams think they are. But also sort of reading the tea leaves on what bonus demands may be. From Lacy’s perspective, it’s three‑plus pitches; you could argue maybe even two 70 pitches and a 60 pitch on the 20/80 scale.
Two 70s and a 60 is essentially a front‑line starter depending on what the command ends up being. You could squint and look at, like, the arsenal of the guys in the Big Leagues, say Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, it’s that sort of upside if it all comes together.
The command is the issue right now. And that’s to iron out the delivery some. If you believe you’re getting a front‑line pitcher and there’s only eight or 10 of them on earth at a given time, you really have to look at Lacy. But the sort of risk getting him to reach his command potential, holding his stuff, staying healthy, being healthy for 200‑something innings for a long time, it’s a lot of things you have to get through which is why pitchers are seen as a risk for your demographic.
And Torkelson, I think it’s pretty clear, whatever you want to believe Pete Alonso is, for its above‑average contact, above‑average pitch selection, plus‑plus power, maybe 40 home runs, has done everything he can do as an amateur. The performance record is sterling.
And then Martin, who I don’t think is an option for Detroit, but the reason he would be up there is because of the track record of hitting and having elite pitch selection in the SEC, multi-positionnal guy; gives you all kinds of margin of error, which a lot of teams, especially running on statistical modeling, are looking for; that the tool that matters is this tool, and he’s the best in the draft. You’re sort of hanging your hat on that. And he’s given teams some different looks in the spring in terms of, like, how quick he is, what position he can play, how much power differential he’ll get to in the short term. But long term, I think there’s potential for a Ben Zobrist/Justin Turner‑type player. So, you can see teams talking themselves into that as well.
Q: I know you mentioned it a couple times now, but to get expanded thoughts on it. Do you consider Torkelson a lock at the Tigers at number one? If so, why? Second part to that is, after that first pick is over, what do you expect the Tigers to do afterwards in the later rounds?
KILEY MCDANIEL: I mean, Torkelson has been described to me as at least 90 percent likely to go to Detroit. I think it’s probably more like 98 percent. His advisor, Scott Boras, is not going to give them a number before the draft. There’s not going to be a predraft deal. It’s definitely not a hundred. It’s hard to imagine them not taking him and all the indications coming from their camp, people close to that camp. It’s not really an actual conversation. There would have to be something really drastic to happen that I don’t foresee happening.
And second round, if they take Torkelson, they’ll be able to save a little bit off the slots, the way the slots are set up. The first couple of picks, the teams will sign for slightly below. The issue is there’s a lot of teams in the comp rounds that are multiple picks that are targeting specific high school players. And they’ve seen like 30, 31, 32 who are not sure who is going to get to them.
And so Detroit obviously picking in the second round for the next pick, there’s no way to know who it’s going to be.
But the sort of policy most teams have is you don’t try to cut a deal and save money up top to then spend later, if you have one player targeted because you can’t guarantee he’ll get there, even if you’ve done everything you can do, there might be one team who says, you know what, we’ll just take him anyway and see what happens. If he doesn’t sign, he doesn’t sign. You have to provide for three, four, five players.
And in the event that they take Torkelson, pay him close to slot, and a bunch of other teams have either cut money or have multiple picks and have more money, Detroit then wouldn’t have the sort of hammer to pick whichever high school player they want.
I would say they probably have a group of people in mind, if they take Torkelson, and it probably includes a good bit of college players. And if they cut and take Lacy at one, then I think they’ll have a group that includes more unsignable or harder‑to‑sign high school players to target, because they’ll have sort of the bonus hammer to kind of float down to the pick of who they want. But there’s a lot of teams with a lot of money in between the two picks. They don’t have a lot of control over it now.
Q: I had a question about two players, if you think they’ll be drafted or not. One of them is Oregon pitcher Kenyon Yovan, who emerged as a hitter as well this spring and a thought if he could be drafted; if so, pitcher or hitter? And the other is a Mississippi prep, Robby Ashford, who might fall into your category of “too high of a price to pay” since he’s got a commitment to play football at Oregon?
KILEY MCDANIEL: Yeah, Yovan is in that area. I’m finalizing my rankings for ‑‑ I published 1 through 150 on ESPN.com. And that will stay static. I’m kind of working through 151 to 250, since I think there will be a lot of unsigned high school players who will need an extra 100 guys more than the picks we have for, sort of, the best available at the bottom of the screen on the broadcast.
Yovan is in the mix to be on that list. The issue with him is he looked like, call it, second‑ or third‑round pick a couple summers ago as a pitcher. He got hurt it. His stuff hasn’t never come back; he hasn’t really pitched very much.
He has plus power, but it’s not a super long track record of hitting. It’s probably like a first base/left field sort of fit in pro ball. And so that kind of guy with some power but not a long track record of hitting.
He’s now older. It’s not clear what the future is on the mound. Sort of comes down to what teams are bidding with the medical, HIPAA laws. I’ll get little nuggets here and there. But also the teams aren’t telling me what they think about these guys. So, I would say he’s probably in that 50/50 to get selected sort of area. There’s hundreds and hundreds of players obviously in that area.
And the good news for him and guys like him, where there are maybe injury markers that would make a team hesitate, you only need one team to take you. You don’t need all 30 to vote on you and get you on the island or whatever. He’s got a decent shot to be drafted. And I would probably say it would be more of a hitter. But if a team takes him, I think they would always leave that route open to see if he can get healthy enough to get back on the mound, look like a power relief type.
And Ashford, he’s a model‑friendly player in that he’s 17 on draft day. And there are certain teams, Cleveland is the big example, that really move guys up the board based on that. If you look at the high school hitters they’ve taken specifically in the first couple rounds, it’s almost always 17‑year‑olds.
He didn’t have a long track record of hitting. He was pretty good at East Coast Pro, which is a big event he was at. And he showed all the tools you need to show. He was a little more polished than some were expecting.
I don’t specifically know ‑‑ I’ll probably find out in the next few days what his sort of number is and what his representation thinks that his odds are.
But just the buzz from teams from the last week or so is there’s some questions around college football. It’s not the slam dunk that it once was. If there’s some now money in baseball, some teams like him a little more than the average team does, and there’s seven figures, that might be a little more attractive than it was before. I think he looked like a “probably no” before the pandemic. And now I think it’s slowly turning into a “maybe.” And I might have a better answer for you a little closer to draft day.
Q: I was interested in your opinion on which of the pitchers is the best prospect in this draft and whether or not [Emerson] Hancock has sort of dropped in the eyes of the evaluators, if he may have been more of a consensus top guy before the year? Has that changed? Your view on that?
KILEY MCDANIEL: I would say he was the consensus top guy coming into the year. I think it was maybe 60/40 him versus Lacy. The issue was that Hancock did not pitch last summer and it was pretty limited this fall. And so scouts were rushing in to see him preseason before the season started. And as you can see from his line, when he faced Richmond, the opener I was at, he wasn’t very good there.
I found out later that his stamina hadn’t been built up yet. The issue with him is similar to one I talked about with Trea Turner in the past, which Trea Turner was fantastic at NC State as a freshman and sophomore, but he wasn’t eligible so scouts weren’t watching him. Maybe they were watching at games he was in but they weren’t paying attention to him. They knew his stats and knew the reputation but they hadn’t sort of formed an answer.
And by the time it was time for scouts to watch him, it was in the summer, he was battling through an injury with Team U.S.A., didn’t look quite as good as his double-play partner Alex Bregman.
And in the spring, he was tinkering with his swing. And some scouts are, like, I’ve seen him three times now, last summer, early this spring, I don’t like him anymore, I’m out. And then he looked really good down the stretch. And if you had seen him as freshman/sophomore, you’d stay on him and you’d know to stay on him.
Hancock is similar to that. He was very good. I ran into him as a freshman, like all the scouts were looking at each other. We were there to see other players. And we’re like, wow, this guy is the best guy on the field by a mile. And he looked like that all through his freshman year, early in his sophomore year.
Then there was some arm soreness, and he wasn’t quite himself toward the end. He didn’t pitch in the summer. That’s when the scouts started showing up; he wasn’t there. And then preseason was good, not great. And then early in the season, the first real game look at him, he wasn’t that great.
And when he was about to hit his stride, get into league play, he didn’t get to do it. So, there’s a little bit of sort of unfair slicing of when scouts are seeing him. But the other issue is there has been some arm soreness in the past, so teams are waiting to see how that medical looks, which I think is coming ‑‑ came up to him last week. I haven’t heard anything super negative about it, but obviously there’s a little bit of worry there.
And I also mentioned in the past, teams are generally looking for four‑seam, quote, “rising fastballs” in general because there’s more swing and miss, gives you more margin for error. And high‑spin curveballs. Hancock doesn’t have either of those. So, what you’re hanging your hat on is sort of history, the body, the delivery, the arm action, the changeup.
Teams also don’t tend to love right‑handed starters that are changeup over breaking ball, which he is. So, he’s a little bit of an old‑school pitcher in that he doesn’t fit a lot of the recent trends and hasn’t been seen recently.
So, teams that are a little more traditional in their evaluation and are leaning to the scouting side, in that they had multiyear history with him and have really stayed on top of him, they’ll like him more than other teams. I think it’s hard to say he’s the top pitcher right now when Lacy both was good, was good lately, was good on the best stage and also fits where the trends are going and what’s most valued in baseball right now.
And I would also say Max Meyer is ‑‑ some teams may have him ahead of Hancock as well. He’s up to 100 with an 80‑grade top‑of‑the‑scale slider, and he also fits today’s game in that he might be a Lance McCullers‑type, where it may not be 200 innings, but if it turns out he’s a little more durable than that he might be Walker Buehler.
It sounds like there’s a number of teams in the top 10 that have Meyer ahead of Hancock as well. And we could look back on this and say this was a little hint that Hancock was not as good as he appeared as a freshman and this is just a glimpse ahead of time or it can turn out he turns into a Luis Castillo, and we’ll all feel silly because we talked ourselves out of it.
Q: Zac Veen, what upside do you see there, and what sort of comp do you have for him? Obviously, a long high school hitter, who some teams are talking about, I guess there’s some draft projections that talk about maybe even as high as two; is that realistic in your mind?
KILEY MCDANIEL: I think he’s most likely spots four and five and then probably eight, San Diego, would be sort of the bottom for him. I think his upside is huge, too ‑‑ I wouldn’t say lazy ‑‑ but the easy comp thrown at him would be Cody Bellinger, because his swing looks similar. Obviously not projected to be Cody Bellinger.
And there’s also some similarities to Christian Yelich, who I think they did look somewhat similar, the same stage. The issue is Veen has a more projectable body, where Yelich hasn’t even really completely filled out to the level some people thought.
Veen, some scouts have him maybe moving to first base eventually. So, while he was a plus runner and center fielder over the summer, he already looks like a right fielder now. And some scouts think he’ll move to first base eventually, but right field at least. The difference is the upside to have above‑average to plus hits, above‑average to plus pitch selection and plus plus power, which is at least as good as Torkelson, maybe a little better. We just don’t have the sort of certainty of all the college performance that Torkelson has.
That’s the reason he’s getting talked about that high, is you could have a guy with even more authentic potential than Torkelson that can also play right field and is just an overall better prospect, but it’s going to take a couple of years to find out if that’s the case.
And obviously there’s a good bit of risk between here and there. So that’s the reason we’ve talked about it as high as two. And I think he’s probably going to go fourth or fifth.
Q: The last one I had was Nick Gonzales, the hit tool, seems like the one that’s carrying it for him. And do you see enough there for it to make him a top four pick potentially?
KILEY MCDANIEL: Yes, I think he’s also in play at two. I think he also goes probably four, five, or six. The profile is not super different than Austin Martin. The difference is Martin is a better runner, has a little more experience and defensive value at different positions, and a long track record of hitting in the SEC. The raw tools are about the same for Gonzales, maybe not quite as good defensively. The problem is he’s been playing at New Mexico State, and so you kind of have to throw that out at some level because it’s poor competition, it’s at elevation, it’s small parks. It’s obviously not wood bats, but he had a good performance on the Cape. So that month essentially is what scouts are hanging their hat on.
So you could see a team squinting and saying, hey, we didn’t like Martin this spring. We think maybe he’s not as good as his hype coming into the year. We think Gonzales is a little better than people think, because we’re really focusing on the Cape. And we think he’s been unfairly maligned for the New Mexico State stuff; that’s just where he played. He did everything he could do there, putting up bonkers numbers nonstop.
You could see somebody seeing those guys as pretty close and, for example, Baltimore, too, taking Gonzales, getting some savings and then spending that money elsewhere. But the general view is that Martin is second or third, has a little more upside, a little more certainty. And then Gonzales is anywhere from four to six, maybe seven on an overall list. But I don’t think he’ll get out of the top six or seven, because just college bats with tools and performance. There’s just not that many of them.
Q: I want to ask you about the Pirates, where they sit in the draft, kind of where you see their needs and where you think that they might be leading with that No. 7 pick and even maybe beyond.
KILEY MCDANIEL: They’re in a tough spot obviously as a sort of a rebuilding or reloading, smaller revenue, smaller payroll team, also with the new regime in play. So, I mean they really need to just restock the farm system. And I think ideally it would be guys that will be there in the next two or three years, so that they can sort of from today start loading up toward their next playoff team and not have a guy that’s five or six years away like multiple years in rookie ball. But luckily in the top 10, there’s not really prospects like that. Even high school guys are expected to move quickly. That’s what I would expect them to look at college for their second and third picks when those guys are options.
I don’t think the needs really come into play here. I think it’s just who is the best prospect. I think, lucky for them, they’ll have their choice of high school pitchers. There’s some buzz that Mick Abel is being considered there which was not the case, according to the industry, about a week or two ago, but now it sounds like he’s a real option there as sort of the consensus top high school pitcher.
They will have a shot at probably all of the high school hitters except for Zack Veen. And what everybody in the industry thinks they’ll do is they’re looking college hitter for the reasons I outlined before, and that Heston Kjerstad at Arkansas, who looks reminiscent of JJ Bleday, who went third overall last year out of Vanderbilt, and also Patrick Bailey, who is the best catcher in the draft, is also if he doesn’t go seven will probably go in the next couple picks.
The catching actually probably is the biggest weakness in the system. So, if they’re kind of flipping a coin there, going catcher and may be the choice for that. So, I would expect them to go college hitter, but it sounds like they’re considering all aspects because, as I said, it’s top of the draft; you’re not getting the two‑year rookie‑ball guys. Even the high school kids are going to move pretty quickly.
Q: Obviously every team is impacted by the five‑round limit. But a team like the Rays that is so draft dependent on getting low‑cost talent, has had a lot of success in the lower rounds; do you think it impacts them or hurts them more?
KILEY MCDANIEL: Yeah, I think the teams that are probably hurt the most are the ones that have sort of demonstrated an ability to both have bigger staffs, better processes as sort of created by the industry, and then better results, especially outside of the first few rounds. I think the Rays are clearly above‑average amateur scouting operation. They embrace both the scouting and having a big scouting staff, and sort of the modeling in the staff and things like that.
I would have them up there with the Dodgers and Yankees, some of the groups that have done the best in the draft. Some of those teams, like, I know when I worked for the Braves, it was just expected you would find at least one big leaguer per draft after the 10th round. Maybe you wouldn’t but you would get close. Maybe guys would trade for a big leaguer. There was ‑‑ some sort of value was expected, and not every team expects that because not every team has a track record of doing that. And the Rays are one of those teams. So, yeah, all those $125,000 bonus guys after the 10th round for a lot of teams are just sort of not that important. And the teams where it is important will sign more of them because there’s a track record of turning them into prospects.
Q: And the other question is, I know it’s always a rolling scale on how you evaluate drafts. But the Rays did make some significant changes in their processes a couple of years ago. They seem to have been doing better based on what the experts have said. Do you agree with that, that they have gotten better? And if so why do you think so?
KILEY MCDANIEL: Yeah, the change in regime ‑‑ I don’t remember how many years ago it was, but there was that run where they had a bunch of extra picks every year and the results were not very good. And I don’t think that was because the process was bad. I think it was probably some bad decisions and some bad luck as well, especially given there were so many extra picks and expectations were so much higher.
It does seem like in the past couple of years there has been some adjustment in the process, the outcomes have gotten much better. And like I said, I think the balancing of the sort of progressive and traditional methods together tends to get the best results. There’s not a lot of teams that are on either end all the way to the edge that are getting the best results. And so it sounds like, it’s also another reason why their farm system is so good and, thus, their top executives keep getting poached because, like, from top to bottom across all these different departments ‑‑ in the book I actually, Eric and I outline that we think they may be the best‑run organization in baseball because the other two candidates for that were the Yankees and the Dodgers who obviously have way more money. So, the fact that the Rays are even in that conversation with so many fewer resources seems to be like a very good reason why, when all things being equal their executives are getting poached because the process seems to be a little bit better.
Q: Masyn Winn, just kind of what chances he has to be tried as a two‑way player in the pros and also kind of his odds to make it in that capacity? And then also Dillon Dingler is a guy who has risen a lot this year ‑‑ unique tools at the catcher position. I’m wondering how the confidence level is in his bat going forward?
KILEY MCDANIEL: So, I wrote in a piece that’s going up either tomorrow or the next week when they said pair a player with a team, sort of like a dream scenario. And I thought Tampa Bay would be a perfect fit for Masyn Winn because he’s getting looked at by teams in the late first round to early second round. I think he’ll go off by pick 50 as a two‑way player.
The quick run-down on the tools, it’s a seven‑arm; seven‑runner; above‑average power; chance to be an above‑average hitter; electric, twitchy shortstop high school kid from Texas which on its own is probably enough to go in the first 50 picks. On the mound, you might have two 70 pitches, which is arguably better than Asa Lacy, who is the top pitcher in the draft. The issue is he’s a righty, there’s some effort, might be a reliever, shorter guy, probably not a 200‑inning guy.
There’s a handful of teams that have demonstrated an ability to look for tools and upside, which Masyn Winn definitely is. Sounds like teams prefer him as a shortstop. They’ll send him out that way, and then the decision is do you want him to pitch at all.
I think the teams like upside are picking in that range and have shown an ability or interest in developing two‑way players. Luckily there’s a few of them in that range right there. I think you’re on to something there.
Q: Question about Dillon Dingler, the tools really stand out at the catcher position. I’m just wondering the confidence in his bat.
KILEY MCDANIEL: So, I’ve been talking to people about that a lot the last couple of weeks, because his raw tools are almost the same as Joey Bart’s, who went second overall out of Georgia Tech two years ago, or recently.
The issue with Bart was he was a guy outside of high school that might have gotten a million dollars. The track record of hitting, watching, catch, getting all the reps, that sort of stuff, was very high. By the time he was a junior in college, he was already a plus defender. You could send him straight to the Big Leagues. That’s the reason he’s moving so fast. But the concern with Bart, it’s power over hit. What if he ends up being a .220, strikes out a lot, does all this stuff matter; having all this power, if he’s not getting to get to it in games.
Dingler is a similar player, but he’s new to catching. He has all the tools, I think, to be as good as Bart is. He probably won’t be because the reps aren’t there, getting started later. But the arm, the athleticism, the body, the movement, everything is all very similar behind the plate. It’s just a little more on the raw side and the athleticism. Also, the power is maybe ‑‑ I’d say Bart is probably 65, maybe 70, raw power. Dingler is a 60. It’s not that far behind.
The issue is that Dingler does not have a history of making tons of contact. It’s not that he has a history of swinging and missing, just doesn’t have that history. He didn’t play over the summer, was rehabbing an injury, converted to catching. A lot of times catching will wear on a guy’s offensive ability. There’s still questions exactly what the impact will be, but the upside is a guy that should be going in the top five if maybe he had an entire season and just massacred the Big Ten, which I think some people were expecting.
But he was at the top of every scout, national scouts, like to see at the beginning of the year. He had a handful of weekends. I saw him one weekend against Georgia Tech when he wasn’t that great contact‑wise. I was told the weekend before in Florida, I think it was Fort Myers, that he looked great. So, it was a short enough window that if you saw him once you might have got him good or bad; if you’re the loudest force in the room, that might move him down five or six slots, you then don’t pick him. I expect him to go around somewhere around 20th.
Q: I have two questions. One of them very specific to this draft and then one a little bit kind of 30,000‑feet longer term. So I’ll start with the more specific. In the last week or so, there’s been a lot more talk about the Orioles going underslot at two with Mike Elias’ Houston background, all that sort of thing. Should they go that route, who do you necessarily see or who might have you have heard as targets for overslot at number 30 for the Orioles?
KILEY MCDANIEL: So, this goes back to, I guess, the common question that teams pick in the top ten, discussion going under, or if they have a top pick, or maybe they have two picks later in the round, how are they going to balance it?
So, I’m not going to endorse that this is the way that Baltimore will do it, because it’s technically against MLB rules, but I can tell you every team does it, which is ‑‑ let’s say we’re hypothetically we are team 31, we are ESPN conference call. We’re picking first and we’re picking 30th.
What’s going to happen is we pick a guy first, let’s say we go underslot, we pick the non-consensus best player. We save two million dollars. Our slot leader is two million, we saved two million, do we have four million to spend?
Well, the slot for four million is, say, like, 12th overall, something like that. Once the 12th pick comes off, you see who is still on the board, who do you like. High school players are easier to move because obviously they can say I want to go to school or have some leverage, they’re easier to move. Ideally the parents will be rich because a lot of the guys in the past ‑‑ Daz Cameron, Jack Leiter, guys like that ‑‑ the guys that have slipped are not signed, because the dad is independently wealthy. When a kid says he doesn’t want to sign, people will believe him. Dollar is fair; that’s how it works. Or at least works sometimes. Other times it can work a different way. What happens is that the slot is four million at pick 12. We have four million to spend. Once pick 12 is over, we see who is available.
All right, we like these three high school guys. We can’t get all three of them to our pick. But what we do is call all three of them, say we’ve got four million dollars for you; if you’re not the next pick, you are going to lose money. If you let them pick you, tell them you want $5 million. This is essentially what teams do. I’m not going to say any team has done it in any certain scenario or do it this time, but this is broadly what happens, is you let the draft play out. If the player Elias wanted at 30 ends up going 12th overall, the one guy rumored to go after, if he goes 12, he can’t control that.
And I’ve heard instances of this where a team thinks they can get a guy to the 30s and he just goes 10, 12, to 15th. And the slot’s comparable to what you were offering and it’s a high pick and it’s now. They can’t take the risk that trying to get to your pick, they end up going 25th; they’re forced to sign for that slot. They’re giving money away. And the kid is taking on a risk, too.
Unfortunately, that’s why I said before, as Baltimore, whichever team is trying to do this, you have to target four or five players ahead of time. And then once you get to where the slot you can offer has already been passed in the draft, then maybe you can be down to two or three of them and say, okay, let’s tell them all to throw out a huge number to the teams; let’s hope the teams believe them. Let’s hope they pass. Let’s hope they don’t get here. Probably one of them will get there.
So, all of that to say, I can’t tell you who a good target is because they’re not going to know who a great target is. If I had to pick out a few guys, I would say once you get down to about 20th on my ranking, I think Abel and Bitsko are probably going to be gone by then.
I think Pete Crow‑Armstrong will probably be gone by then, but there’s a chance you could afford him down there as a Harvard Westlake Vanderbilt kid. And below that it’s just a bunch of college pitching.
Then you get down into the mid to late 20s. You’ve got Jared Kelley, Tanner Witt, Jordan Walker, Carson Tucker Masyn Winn, all those guys might get there on merit. So that’s more wait until pick 22 if somebody is not on, then get them to float a number. But a lot of these guys have already been rumored to be going in the 30s. And they’re already throwing out a big number because they think they might get more money there. Unfortunate answer to your question, I don’t think Baltimore can do anything too proactive right now because there’s too many things that can happen in front of them. And maybe a guy they think gets into the 30s is going to sign for a slot at 21.
They probably can’t affect that, because if a guy is going to sign for slot 21, there’s probably a team that wants to pay him slot at 23, 25, 26. And you can’t get all three of them to pass. Especially this year, I think teams will just offer 70 percent of slot, not call ahead and ask if the kid is going to sign, and just tell them, hey, are you really going to turn down two and a half million dollars? That doesn’t happen very much. This year it will happen more than it has in the past and that will affect plans for teams like this.
Q: Second one deals with the draft going forward. You mentioned about the raise, getting their balance or striking a balance between traditional scouting and the modern analytical predictive modeling that goes on. With the pandemic, the decrease in scouting, furloughing of many members of the front office, all of that sort of thing, and the uncertainty about possibly contracting the Minor Leagues a little bit, shorter draft going forward, is there any possibility or is there a chance to say what type of chances are there that front offices see scouting firms possibly have targets of opportunity and really cutting back on area scouts or limiting things to National Crosschecker or Regional Crosschecker‑type individuals?
KILEY MCDANIEL: I think that’s where things were headed before this. And I think a lot of people have referred to this as sort of an accelerant of that, that if teams are generally going to get more information, be it data or reports or easy events to attend put together by MLB as a way to sort of save money for teams, standardize information, make it more of an even playing field, I don’t think that’s MLB ‑‑ and they’ve sort of told me that’s not their intention.
But in the way of doing that in order to serve the teams and make it easier for them, they make the scouts less valuable because then that’s fewer players for scouts to go discover. There’s fewer looks where there’s only one or two teams there where a scout can make his presence felt and make a difference for his team.
So, I think this stuff, pandemic, is going to ‑‑ there’s going to be some furloughs and teams are going to be forced to do a thing in terms of relying more on data than reports than they have in the past, that they wouldn’t have done.
Now they’re forced to do it and some teams are going to realize, hey, the information is not quite as good but we’re okay with this, let’s try it out again one more year, see if we’re actually okay with it. There’s teams aggressively trying to do this, and this gives them the PR cover of being able to do it otherwise. There’s more in the industry that this will both give an excuse into a window what things will look like. I think most people think there’s a lot of value in scouting, but the issue is then will an owner think that saving a million five on scouts and expenses and benefits and travel and all that sort of stuff isn’t worth having slightly worse information.
If every team does it, then it probably is. But I don’t think you’ll ever get every team going that far. But I think a lot of teams will see that math and make a decision that way, which I think is a shame for the game. I think it’s probably the wrong thing to do, but it also increases the value of good scouts because then if every team only has six or eight scouts instead of 15, then those six or eight that everybody wants are going to get paid more and there’s also going to be more money to hand out. So, it’s always a bit of a silver lining. But I think the horde of scouts you see at games, there’s been sort of like gallows humor at some of these events, like, hey, 10 years from now there might be 40 scouts here instead of 200 in the Area Codes or some of these big events.
I think unfortunately scouts have seen that coming for a long time and this may speed it up. I still don’t think it’s the right answer, but I think that’s the direction we’re heading in. I’m curious to see how it’s going to play out and how teams react to it.
Q: What do you see the Yankees’ philosophy in the draft this year? I’ve seen a lot of drafts have been going for college pitchers. Also wondering what you think of their pick last year if you can look back at the high school kid from Jersey, Anthony Volpe?
KILEY MCDANIEL: Yeah, the Yankees are another team similar to how I spoke about the Rays earlier where I think they fully embrace all the different methods of evaluation; having a big staff; going into the biometrics and mechanical analysis in addition to the sort of statistical modeling and the scouting and having the staff that brings you more names.
Like whenever you hear there’s a rising high school player and only a couple teams are on him and I ask which teams, the Yankees are always one of the teams that come up. They just seem to be on top of that stuff and have a big enough staff that can allow for those sorts of things. I think maybe this case, I’ve heard them tied to a lot of players. I think most of them are going to go in like the 15 to 20 sort of area and not get to their pick. But the reason they’re tied to college pitching is because that’s what’s available.
If you just look at my rankings, once you get past 20, presumably somewhere after 20 you’re looking at players that may be available at their pick. It’s mostly pitching and it’s mostly college pitching. They’re getting tied to that because that’s what’s there. And I think they have a pretty good track record in each demographic of the four major hitter/pitcher college/high school, picking up the kind of guys they like.
And taking Clate Schmidt as an injured college pitcher in the past in the first round, they’re obviously not scared of doing anything like that. I don’t think they love taking high school pitchers up top. I think they’d rather take them lower and spread out the risk a little bit because it’s a risky demographic.
But some teams will not take them. And the Yankees are not one of those teams. Going to Volpe: I think he’s one of those players where it’s not huge, loud tools. It’s not a big projectable frame. It’s not upside to the ceiling. It is very good for the game. Track record of hitting. Figures stuff out. Performs. Heady player. All those different sorts of things that have become clichés. There’s a reason they’re clichés. Sometimes not necessarily taking attendance before the tools because Volpe has tools.
But when you have a not as big shortstop, which is sort of in vogue right now, but doesn’t have the power ceiling, it’s sort of seen as a lower side pick. It is. But there’s guys in the Big Leagues that are 5’8″ hitting home runs.
And that doesn’t preclude him from potentially turning into that sort of guy. But I think he could be a top 100 prospect if he’s performing. Once he gets to High A/Double‑A, right around there, that will be enough time to I think demonstrate that all of these sort of secondary skills, feel for the game, things like that, are strong enough to be a potential everyday player in the Big Leagues. We’ll know enough of his performance to know if that’s how these things are playing.
Q: Patrick Riley, the top‑ranked player out of Jersey, Vanderbilt commit, do you see him being drafted and what do you like about him?
KILEY MCDANIEL: Yeah, he’s in that big group of players that I think are probably like maybe late second round for some teams, probably more third to fourth round for most teams, where the assumption is their price will not be met. Obviously we see Vanderbilt, you assume the price goes up, because that’s such a desirable place, get such a good education.
So, because spring didn’t start ‑‑ he kind of popped on to the scene in the fall. So, he came on very late. Jupiter is kind of where he popped up, hitting the mid‑90s, mature frame, pretty good breaking ball. I don’t think he’s the kind of guy that will get paid ‑‑ I would say pretty low odds, 25 percent or lower that he gets picked and signs. I would expect him to show up at Vanderbilt.
And he’s one of the guys, in a 40‑round draft, where somebody can save a little money on each pick, offer him 1.2 million in the fourth round, that’s the kind of guy who would normally have a shot at getting signed, maybe close to getting signed, having conversations with teams in the ballpark, that I think he’ll have trouble getting those sorts of offers this year with just fewer picks and less money.
Q: I had two players I wanted to know maybe the most likely scenarios for. The first being Zac Veen at the top of the draft from Spruce Creek High School. And the second being Logan Allen, the left‑handed pitcher from Florida International?
KILEY MCDANIEL: Veen, I think the most likely option, fourth or fifth. Teams are both on him. They both have good reports. They like him. They like the upside. And gives them a full year of performance to go off of, which, in the case of Dillon Dingler, from Ohio State, the college player we talked about earlier, doesn’t really have a year of history with him of being heavily scouted.
In some ways you’ve having more history and certainty on some college players. Logan Allen gave scouts, both in terms of data and visual looks, a better look this year. The velocity was a little bit better. The curveball a little bit sharper. They already knew he could pitch; had a good change‑up, and had all the different command aspects in place. So, while I think coming in the year I probably would have had him around 50 or 60 overall, probably go in the second round, there’s now some buzz now he might go in the 30s on day one. I would expect him to be off the board by probably the mid‑40s.
Q: Curious about the Rockies at number nine. Seen them tied to both Kjerstad and Detmers, and knowing what you said already about college players, do you think that they’re going to go to the college player? Or what do you see them doing at number nine?
KILEY MCDANIEL: At my last mock, I had them taking Hancock. I think there’s a chance he flips that far. I wouldn’t say it’s likely, but in the scenario I laid out there, he does get there. I think they would take him.
I’ve said in the past that they specifically only draft players or pitchers that they’re sinkers, given the ballpark. Obviously, that’s sort of their strategy to work around that. And we’ve seen some college pitchers specifically with sinkers drop in the mucks, because the teams are looking for the opposite sort of pitcher, all things being equal.
And when there’s a lot of pitchers available, you can obviously pick your flavor.
Chris McMahon with Miami, Carmen Mlodzinski with South Carolina, are also similar players that’s happening. So, they’re presumably targets of Colorado and the comp, and even into the second round.
So, I think Hancock could be an option. I’ve heard that they’re very interested in Robert Hassell. I think he goes eight to San Diego. But I’m told if he doesn’t go eight to San Diego, very good chance to go ninth to Colorado.
And I think another high school hitter they are on is Tyler Soderstrom out of Northern California. I think there’s a chance of Hancock and Hassell both off the board that he could be the option there.
And [Reid] Detmers is also sort of that four‑seam up‑in‑the‑zone guy. And not necessarily their flavor pitcher. Wouldn’t say they would throw him out completely. But I think a little less likely they go in that direction.
Q: The Dodgers have six picks in this year’s draft. Obviously, I’m going to keep this Dodger‑centric, with number 29 overall in the first round. Looking at LA’s depth chart, it’s a little tough to kind of point a finger at major area of need. You have maybe left‑handed pitching, maybe an athletic shortstop. What are the insiders kind of feeling? What are you feeling about where they might be thinking through this year’s shortened draft and where they might try to add to the already deep farm system? And more than that, what are maybe some names fans should try to get to know better in a week’s time, like maybe we’ve heard Bobby Miller out of Louisville or Bryce Jarvis out of Duke?
KILEY MCDANIEL: The Dodgers are another team like both Tampa and Yankees I mentioned in the past that they’re sort of leveraged into every different position in terms of having a big staff, considering data, kind of digging deep on the makeup on players, that sort of thing. They’re not opposed to any one demographic.
It’s hard to sort of pin them down actually until you hear statistically “the Dodgers like this guy.” Similar to what I said about the Yankees, since obviously the Dodgers are just a couple picks behind them, college pitching ‑‑ that pick. So, college pitching is probably the most likely thing, because gotta kind of throw darts. And there’s a couple more college pitchers around than normal.
Clayton Beeter, if he can get there ‑‑ I’m not sure he will ‑‑ is their kind of guy in that he’s coming off Tommy John, which they’re not scared of. And he has, according to some people, the best stuff in the entire draft. He was not a big name even on the first week of the season. But his TrackMan data came in after those handful of starts which were not seen super widely by scouts. I’d keep an eye on Clayton Beeter.
I would also say that Cole Wilcox and Cade Cavalli, out of Georgia and Oklahoma, are both players that sort of show the upside elements that teams are confident in their core development, which the Dodgers are one of them. That they can sort of, not remake them, but make the necessary adjustments more quickly than other teams would, would be good examples.
I also think Bryce Jarvis could be interesting because his whole thing is he’s completely optimized. He’s 22. He’ll probably sign for a discount. He’s what these progressive teams will turn him into already. And so some scouts are saying in enrollment you could send him straight to High‑A or Double‑A out of the draft and you’ll just know what you have very quickly. He becomes sort of an inventory piece quickly. And obviously teams that are contending can never have enough inventory pitching, if it ends up being a guy that pitches an inning at a time during stretch run.
And last guy I would mention would be Jordan Westburg with Mississippi State. I believe Dodgers’ scouting director Billy Gasparino was with San Diego when they took Hunter Renfrow. Westburg is almost the same athlete but can play shortstop. They both have insane tools.
It might be a 7 runner with 6 raw power that can stick it to the shortstop. The contact is a little bit of a bugaboo. He didn’t have a lot of reps in high school. He didn’t even go to events until he was a senior. Mississippi State was one of his only offers. He’s been slowly improving and also fits their mold of going for upside, kids with makeup, kids that have been improved, and kids that probably need a little bit of core development help, that they have one of the best groups to do that.
Q: [Earlier question] started talking about the Rays, Dodgers and the Yankees being upper crust effectively. Do you see any teams approaching those? Or do you see anybody who’s maybe going escalator down a bit? Because getting the right name is important, but maximizing their value is more important.
KILEY MCDANIEL: Thanks for the question. For the book Eric and I noticed that Detroit, they were seen as sort of behind as recently as a year or two ago. We noticed them doing a lot of different things with high‑speed cameras, optimizing their pitchers utilizing data, things like that. Definitely moving in the right direction.
And San Diego is also seen, they’re at the far end of sort of the traditional end of things, where they lean towards scouts. But they serve you the best version of that. I think they’re probably an upper crest of sort of a different flavor of things. Yeah, I’m not sure there’s another one that everyone agrees. Arizona has also been doing a very good job both internationally and domestically with that new group … that they have sort of some specific types of players where they’re looking for specific arm slots, spin rates, up the middle, contact guys.
Like, I find the teams that have successfully targeted a sort of player and gotten good results with them, it’s just usually because they’re just better at it in a way and they kind of know where they’ll get good results.
And I also think Atlanta’s draft, I think a lot of people in the industry were questioning some of their picks last year.
By the time the summer had ended it was clear they had above‑average draft. And they’re also sort of taking what used to be very traditional group and trying to make it more progressive. I think they’re also doing some interesting things. And Minnesota is another one in that general area.
Q: If I could, a couple of players with San Diego ties who were kind of, who were getting a lot of buzz but weren’t initially well thought of, Braden Olthoff, a right‑handed pitcher out of Tulane, and a shortstop out of Carlsbad High School, Thomas Saggese. Are they anywhere on the horizon?
KILEY MCDANIEL: It’s funny you mention that. It’s almost like you’ve been going through my notes, because I think two of the names that I didn’t even know a month ago that have gotten the highest in my rankings, between the 151 to 250 area are those two guys.
Saggese, I heard his name for the first time, I think, ten days ago. Started asking around. The eventual answer was most teams know about him; most teams are not really on him too high, he’ll probably go to school, but he looked really good this spring; he had a handful of games.
Best teams, sort of going back to the theme throughout the call, the teams on top of guys, the first teams to get on guys when they pop up, they were mentioned yet again.
And so there’s some thought that he may go as high as the third round as a handful of teams like him. He’s signable. He’s sort of a hit‑first, more average athlete, but good enough to play shortstop kind of player.
And a handful of teams that, I think, feel that way about him but it’s probably enough for him to get picked.
Olthoff was brought up, when teams were helping me out with who is going to be the highest draft pick that I haven’t heard of because he’s not a scouting guy, he popped up early, maybe he’s a TrackMan‑friendly guy, Olthoff was the guy who came up. He works 88, 93. Stuff is probably about average. But he’s big. He throws strikes. He gets great results.
And I think, especially if teams got more looks at him during the spring, which they didn’t, he could go as high as the third round. I think he’s probably more fourth or fifth or a very good undrafted player that may or may not sign for the 20,000 afterwards. But he’s now on the radar for the draft, which before the season I don’t think he was even on the radar for that kind of thing.